Subaltern cricket

With dreams in their eyes many young and budding cricketers come to play cricket in Kolkata from different parts of the state

By Partha Sarathi Bhattacharya

Renaissance of Bengal cricket might have started long before, but the change of mindset to compete with the other states or in the international arena was perhaps awakened in the last decade, thanks to the heroics of the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ Sourav Ganguly, who taught us to think about cricket from another facet.

However, despite having all the potentials, unfortunately till date, Bengal have failed to be a powerhouse of Indian cricket, like Mumbai or Karnataka.

Having played Ranji Trophy from this state, I can assure you, there is no scarcity of talent. For me, the problem lies in the system.

Through this piece I want to emphasize the plight of the budding cricketers from the suburbs under the present structure of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), the richest association of the BCCI.

Cricket is considered as a religion in India and the players of the national are considered to be holier than sages. Like the other parts of the country, it is hugely popular in our state as well. The middle-class and lower middle-class kids from distant settlements are massively attracted to this game, unlike the Rajas and Sahibs of erstwhile times, thanks to the colossal effort of Late Jagmohan Dalmiya who rescued the sport from shabby hovels to opulent society and turned it into a mass sport.

Then came the era of Ganguly, our beloved ‘Dada’, who had emanated the hope in many youngsters to pursue their passion as their profession. Boys are now ready to relinquish the old evangelical path of academics.

The plight I want to put lights on is about the players who flock to Kolkata for better grooming and a career, but the problem of accommodation in this metro city remains a large concern for many.

Youngsters are often deprived of bare essentialities let alone remuneration for the time and hard work they put in. Hearts full of dreams and aspirations often fall into wrong and greedy hands. They leave no stone unturned to exploit the youngsters to leave them with an amputated soul.

The primary objective of a budding cricketer is to get berth in any second division club at the Maidan circuit in Kolkata. In spite of the fact that the CAB has made it mandatory to reserve a spot for Under-16 category in all the second division teams but the modus operandi has often been reported as unholy practice of biasness. As there is no relegation system in the second division format, it is often being noticed that club officials are tying up a conditional nexus with coaching camps and henceforth for a newcomer to the city it becomes almost unendurable to find a suitable way of getting into the side.

Currently, it seems, getting into a club side is more difficult than senior Bengal. An appalling darkness hoovering over the illuminating and shinning exterior. The apostles of unscrupulous practices should immediately be warned.

Despite such tribulations, suburban boys take up challenges unabashedly and with a lofty aplomb. Once the unfathomable task of making it to the national side seems a feasible goal after Dada and the likes of Manoj Tiwary, Ashok Dinda, Mohammed Shami and Wriddhiman Saha wore the Indian jersey.

As a result of unrelenting grit of the suburban boys, they are the ones who subjugate the senior Bengal squad. In spite of the growing success of small town boys in Maidan and in First-Class cricket, they are the ones who are the most neglected under the current structure. They find themselves clueless after arriving in the city and are plunged into the magnitude of Maidan cricket.

There are so many matches being played at the district level, but none other than the first and second division games of Kolkata league attracts the attention of the selection committee. I must admit that in this context, CAB has come up with some fantastic steps such as channeling young talents from districts by providing coaches, organizing ‘Vision 2020’ camp for budding cricketers under the vigilant eyes of National rank coaches and promoting talents in second division cricket league.

There are aspects of local cricket that needs tightening up, albeit the constant and continuous effort from the responsible corners. The advent of modernization has only started, giant’s leaps are yet to be taken. Loopholes and cracks are expected to be filled up.

Let’s hope for a future where boys and girls can shed their apprehension, live their dreams and soak up the spirit of cricket in the truest sense.

(The writer has represented Bengal in First-Class cricket. He can be contacted via Facebook.)